Minority health

President Clinton recently announced plans to level out disparities between white and minority Americans’ health care with $400 million and a new public awareness campaign. In the world’s richest and most powerful country, it is a national tragedy that such gross differences exist.

The president’s five-year initiative would run in conjunction with private sector help. Some $30 million per year would go to more than two dozen communities to focus on one or two health issues and develop strategies. Its goal is to eliminate the most glaring disparities by 2010. A national conference on minority health will be convened this spring among 136 philanthropic organizations to offer possible solutions.

When one looks at the disparities, one is shocked. Prostate cancer strikes twice as many black men under age 65 as whites; diabetes three times as many Native Americans and 70 percent more blacks than whites. Black children die in infancy at a rate two and a half times higher than whites; Native American infants, one and a half times higher. Latinos have two to three times the rate of stomach cancer. Black men suffer heart disease at twice the rate of whites. Likewise with AIDS, minority levels of affliction are significantly higher than whites.

Both the spending and the education are highly necessary. It is unacceptable that so many Americans do not share the benefits of living in the world’s richest country. Hopefully this new initiative will lead to better access, care and prevention for some under-considered Americans.

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